I’ve debated writing a blog about the election for a while. I don’t believe Southern Exposure is the right place for politics. In fact I’m sure it’s not. At the same time I like to think what I say here is relevant to our daily lives, mine and yours.
Last Sunday’s inspirational post was about the delights of autumn. Truthfully, I think this particular autumn hasn’t been nearly as delightful as usual for anybody who reads the news, turns on their television set or even drives down the street.
The election is overshadowing so much. A woman in our city was a recent victim of road rage because of her political bumper sticker. Social media has become a frightening place to visit. I’ve watched the destruction of long-standing friendships, and authors forced to step forward and defend deeply-held opinions, knowing that by doing so, they will lose readers.
Anger and frustration have taken over the airwaves and our print media. An appeal to violence is no longer subtle. Hints of conspiracies and blatant threats against fellow candidates contribute to a national atmosphere of uncertainty and fear.
But you know all that. Right? Because you breathe the same air we all do. Even if you’re reading about the election from a different country, you are slack-jawed and open-mouthed at what you see.
My point today is not to tell you how to vote. I love being part of a democracy where voters have choices, and the right to make them. I have never walked in your shoes, heard exactly what you’ve heard, been raised by your parents or sat at the dinner table with your spouse.
If we really believe in this amazing government of ours, then we also believe that people of good will, people who have carefully considered issues–not simply their own volatile emotions–will make the right choices. Not always. And perhaps not even in our immediate future, but I am a fan of this quote by Theodore Parker, born in 1810, a Unitarian minister and Transcendentalist.
“Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”
If that sounds vaguely familiar? More recently Martin Luther King paraphrased Parker’s quote this way: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Together can we help that moral arc bend a bit faster toward its “continual and progressive triumph?”
Here are some things we might try together in the next weeks as the election draws nearer to make a difference in our own lives and the lives of people we love.
- Mindful meditation. Let’s stop reacting to every comment, every new accusation, and instead take charge of our own emotions. Let’s take some time each day to breathe, to let our minds drift and our bodies relax.
- Pray for peace. If we’re comfortable with prayer, let’s pray for a better understanding of each other, for patience, tolerance, clarity of thought, and a return to an agenda that puts making our world safer and more livable right at the top.
- Get our facts straight. Let’s not believe everything we read. If something sounds too ridiculous to be true, it may be. Let’s use good sources, responsible journalists and pundits, researchers, fact-checkers without a specific political agenda. There’s a lot of garbage out there and it’s not limited to one party or the other. Dig for the real story. Let’s never settle for less.
- Resist the impulse to make enemies of old friends. “Unfollow” people on social media who upset you, at least until the election is over, but don’t abandon them for good. If we find we must comment on a post or a tweet, comment without anger, acknowledging the other person’s right to his/her opinions. Don’t preach and don’t use sarcasm. When tempted, let’s try to remember a time when either a sermon or an insult made us change our minds about anything. Bet we can’t.
- When faced with prejudice and anger, try the following tips from a recent article in the New York Times. Change the subject, often the only thing needed. If we must comment keep our tone and demeanor gentle and kind; don’t publicly embarrass anybody; and most interesting? Assume people, even the most bigoted, are able to change. If we go into a confrontation with a light touch and a positive attitude, the chances it will end positively are better.
- Work for the candidates we support. Instead of getting angry, let’s get results.
There’s a lot at stake in this election. We can’t ignore that. But we can approach the final weeks of campaigning with the most positive attitude we can muster. And when all else fails?
The five hundred pound gorilla in your living room probably really weighs about twenty pounds. Turn off your television and read a good book. (I can recommend a few.) Smile more, call your kids or your parents, bake cookies. Your happiness counts. The more you project happiness and calm, the better place our world will be.